A local of Yicheng, Ma Su was one of the five brothers in the family, all of whom were renowned for their intellects, though Ma Su's elder brother Ma Liang was deemed to be the most talented among them all. Together with Ma Liang, Ma Su began his service under Liu Bei around 205 AD, while the later founder of the Kingdom of Shu was still a guest of Liu Biao in Jingzhou.
Career in ShuEdit
Since the start, Liu Bei's chief advisor Zhuge Liang had been impressed by Ma Su's expansive knowledge in military strategies. Before Liu Bei died in 223, he warned Zhuge Liang that Ma Su was not as talented as he seemed and should not be given important appointments. However, Zhuge Liang did not heed the warning. He made Ma Su a personal military consultant. The two would often hold discussions from dawn to dusk.
Ma Su's forces encountered Zhang He's forces at Jieting. It was here that Ma Su made a serious tactical blunder. He had camped on top of a hill, believing the height offered by the hill would provide him with a more advantageous position in terms of observation and a place of attack. The veteran general Wang Ping advised against Ma Su's decision, arguing that their water supply would be cut off and their forces surrounded. While his advice was rejected, Ma Su allowed Wang Ping to take his troops and camp nearby the source of the Shu forces' water supply.
As Wang Ping predicted, Zhang He took advantage of Ma Su's mistake by striking at the Shu camp's water supply. Scattering Wang Ping's much smaller force, he succeeded in cutting off the enemy's water supply. The parched soldiers of Shu were easily defeated when Zhang He then launched an offensive on the camp itself.
Though he survived the battle, Ma Su feared punishment and attempted to flee. However, he was soon captured and sentenced to death by Zhuge Liang. Ma Su eventually died of sickness in jail before the execution could be carried out.
Differences between Fact & FictionEdit
- Was not executed by Zhuge Liang, he died in prison before the execution took place.